The long and widely established tradition of sustainable and organic cultivation of walnuts by Ukrainian families, favored by ideal climatic conditions, has made Ukraine the largest producer of walnuts in Europe, without resorting to large-scale commercial orchards.
"Ninety-nine percent of our crop comes from private gardens and wildwood. Almost every Ukrainian family living in the countryside has a few trees of Juglans Regia in the garden. Given the strength of this tradition, these households can be defined as small-scale walnut growers. In addition, many people also collect walnuts in the forests or along country roads," said Oleg Moroz (pictured below), founder of Slow Walnuts, a new project and brand that aims to connect the world with the traditions of sustainable harvesting of Ukrainian organic walnuts.
"The rising trend of nut consumption, especially walnuts, is relatively new. We all know that eating walnuts is good for our health. But are we sure that modern methods of intensive cultivation are sustainable for the planet? Five years ago, an engineer friend of ours, Luciano Alzona, came to Ukraine to help us raise the profile of walnut production, and he was amazed by the farming system in Ukraine. He was the first to draw our attention to the sustainable aspect of the Ukrainian walnut chain and especially to the possibility of connecting Ukrainian walnut collectors with consumers.
"At that time, we didn't pay much attention to this characteristic of our growing, because the market for nuts was very different compared to now. As a young country, we still have a lot to learn, and after the changes in recent years, we are increasingly aware of the importance and uniqueness of the sustainability of our supply chain. Now we have decided to invest in improving the organization of the chain, focusing on traceability and food safety."
"They may not look perfect, but Ukrainian walnuts are truly sustainable: the variation in color of the already sorted fruit is considered a guarantee of the product's natural origin. There is no human control or adaptation to force cultivation. Moreover, no pesticides are used, as Ukrainian families grow mainly for their own consumption, preferring a healthy product free of chemical residues. Only the surplus of the harvest goes to the market."
Photo: Slow Walnuts - slowalnuts.com
"Slow and environmentally friendly cultivation is the exact opposite of intensive commercial production," continues Moroz. "Ukrainian walnuts are harvested and shelled by hand, mostly by women in rural areas who are not very well off. Only rainwater is used for irrigation. Thanks to the ideal climate and the fertile soil, the trees are, in fact, self-sufficient".
Moroz also points out that Ukrainian walnuts have, on average, a higher content of healthy unsaturated oils (omega 3) than the fruits they are grown from.
"With Slow Walnuts we are building a community to collect and consume ethically grown and sustainable organic walnuts. We already have contacts in France for the concrete development of the project, but the goal is to have partners in other European countries, such as Italy. That is why we attended Sana 2023 and will continue to do so at other Italian and foreign exhibitions.
The Slow Walnuts and Agromex team at Sana 2023
The project will reduce packaging to a minimum to increase sustainability. "Ukrainian walnuts are preferably sold in bulk (as in the dispenser in the photo above) and we know very well how difficult this concept is for the Italian market.
The Slow Walnuts team will be present at the following events: Anuga (Cologne, Germany), 7-11 October; Natexpo (Paris, France), 22-24 October; Nordic Organic (Malmö, Sweden), 15-16 November.